Partial inventory of clothes in which my mother dressed me

There was the rust-colored sweater and skirt set of scratchy
mohair, its generous cowl that hotly framed my tiny face.

I sat in one of three plastic chairs onstage at the parish
gym, while the emcee took bids for a mystery box held aloft.

I hooked my feet clad in black Mary Janes around
the chair legs, trying surreptitiously to see

if Mary Ann and Meliza next to me were also drowsy.
Did we really care which one of us would be

crowned Santacruzan queen? There was a gown
of neon orange lace. Navy blue uniform skirts

three inches below the knee, the measure of growing
not yet grown into. There were sweaters of pastel-

colored acrylic yarn that gave off a noxious smell
combined with sweat; and in the awkward ‘teens,

elephant pants to pair with platform shoes.
Still, I was always the homely one, burrowing into

an armchair with a pile of books, freezing in terror
at the sound of the telephone’s shrill alarms.

I tell my daughters I never bought clothes off
the rack or owned a pair of jeans until I got

to college. Now I don them almost every day, liking
the soft frayed cuffs and their dusty, commonplace blue.

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